The Oxford Stadium greyhound track is due to reopen in December, following the acquisition of a 10 year lease from owners Galliard Homes by Kevin Boothby.
The stadium, located in the Cowley district of the city, last hosted greyhound racing in 2012, and Boothby – who manages Towcester and Henlow greyhound tracks – has also expressed an interest in reopening the venue to speedway events, provided a viable plan is created.
“We’re delighted we’ve got it over the line now and we can look to the future and get greyhound racing back there and we’ll also look at other things,” remarked Boothby, speaking to BBC Radio Oxford.
“It’s so important that we’ve got it back and fair play to the council and the local community – we need to deliver them a fantastic business for the local area and create a lot of jobs.”
In 2020, businessman Nik Budimir expressed interest in buying the facility and redeveloping it into a multi-sport venue via a £25 million investment, as reported by the Oxford Mail.
Budimir’s planned investment would re-establish both greyhound racing and speedway as the staples of the track, whilst also incorporating a boxing club and dance school, in addition to discussing the possibility of a rugby sevens pitch.
Oxford Stadium held its last greyhound meeting on 29 December 2012 following the announcement of its closure by the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA), despite opposition from a local MP, the city council and a local campaign group.
There were some plans for redevelopment of the area for housing, but Oxford City Council ultimately voted to maintain the stadium for leisure purposes, with the intention of ultimately bringing back speedway, which was last held at the venue in 2007.
Reported by the BBC at the time, Gavin Beckley of Save Our Stadium, said: “If the current owners can’t turn a profit we would like them to sell the site to someone who can run it as a leisure business.
“It runs two nights-a-week, you could run it seven nights-a-week without running out of things to do, it’s chronically underused.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, warned that the closure of the stadium – which directly and indirectly supported around 300 local jobs – would ‘tear the heart out of the community’, although acknowledging the benefits of further housing development.
Boothby’s planned reopening of Oxford Stadium will likely provide a much needed boost to the UK’s greyhound racing sector, which like many other sports has suffered from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the government’s four-stage roadmap for the easing of national lockdown restrictions, venues such as Oxford Road are now permitted to reopen their doors to limited numbers of spectators, with further relaxation of restrictions expected on 19 July.
The announcement also follows the purchase of Newcastle’s Central Park by the Arena Racing Company (ARC) in April, shortly after it entered into an agreement with Entain to redevelop the greyhound racing season schedule, refresh the sports apparel and widen its audience base.